Saturday, April 9, 2011

Special Saturday Interview with Katharine Brauer

(Or, Crits for Water)

I have access to drinkable water. In my faucet. And I can buy bottled water almost anywhere I go.

A lot of people can’t.

And here’s why I get excited about the writing community, not just because of the family I’ve found here, but because of the awesome generosity I discover again and again among you wonderful folks.

For example, Katharine Brauer’s Crits for Water campaign? It’s a glass of awesome. She’s spearheading auction/drawing events all year to raise money in order to bring water to people who need it. Take a look at the schedule of events here, because people you know, like authors, bloggers, editors/agents (oh, my!) are taking part in the critique give-aways.

More awesomeness? For every $1 you donate, Kat will critique 250 words of your writing. I don’t own the fanciest calculator on the block, but I do know that $20 will get you a 5,000-word critique from her. (Dramatic pause.) Not to mention that your money goes directly to fund the creation of water access where it’s needed most.

And if you’re thirsty for more, take a gander below at what Kat has to say about critiquing.

Kat Brauer is a slightly (read: very) silly American teaching English
on a semi-tropical island in Japan. When she's not teaching
(which is often), she takes photos, bakes too many cookies, reads, and
writes. She is represented by Sara Megibow at Nelson Literary Agency.


NAE: Who, as one of your critiquers/beta-readers, have you learned the most from, and what did you learn from him/her?

KB: Holy bejebus, I've learned oodles from all of them.

From Ashley (Ashley March): Pretty much all of my beginning mistakes were fixed by this lady. She was my very first crit partner and really shaped my writing. Her subtle yet snarky voice occasionally sneaks into my MS because I love it so much.

From Sooz (Susan Dennard): Your climax needs to be climax-y. It really has to be the amalgamation of all the action previous, and then some. Also: sometimes in scifi worldbuilding, it's okay to just outright explain things.

From Jess (Jessica Lei): How to best ORDER things in my MS so it makes greater sense to the reader, especially as concerns dialogue around action. Also brainstorming. I get some of my greatest scenes tossing ideas at this lady and having her raze them to shreds.

From the Fantasy Weavers: How to cut down my purple prose. (It can be excessive, especially at first.) How to keep action tags from overwhelming dialogue. How to keep the pace up. All of which I'm still working on, but I like to think I'm improving.

NAE: What is the one piece of advice you can give to someone trying to develop his or her critique skills?

KB: Make sure you understand GRAMMAR. Of course you want to keep an eye out for the bigger things like plot, characterization, and pacing, but a good understanding of grammar actually has an impact on those things! I think my crit skills improved by leaps and bounds once I started studying English to teach it to my students. Example: now I know the ins-and-outs of passive voice, so I can more easily figure out when it should be used and when it's unnecessary. I also feel that syntax is indicative of culture, so the way you use syntax amongst each character affects characterization.

NAE: When you critique someone’s work, what is your process?

KB: Usually I line-edit as I go with occasional comments where I'm confused or particularly amused. Then I consider everything and write a summary of the comments/line-edits with my reasoning about them, how I think they can be fixed, and what they might do to prevent them in the future. If I feel it needs a lot of work, then I let my thoughts gel and gestate before sending it off, in case I might have jumped the gun on a particular comment.

NAE: Is there one specific thing that you gravitate toward while critiquing?

KB: Grammar. Syntax.

Holy god, yes. Word order. Word choice. Effective dialogue.

Following that, generally characterization and pacing. Since I usually critique in chapters, it's hard to get a clear concept of plot. But as I move along later in the book, then that starts to become big, too.

Question added by KB: How have you applied your critiquing to your writing?

KB: Every time I crit something, I become much more aware of similar foibles in my writing. For example, if I see telling (with filter words, which is a particular pet peeve) in someone's excerpt/MS, then the next time I comb through my MS, I'm VIGILANT for filter words.

I DEFINITELY make the same mistakes in my work that I fix in others. This not only helps me empathize as I crit, but it really helps me tighten my writing.


Thanks for the responses, Kat. And for getting the writing community involved in this cause. I'll be interviewing other Crits for Water critiques in the upcoming weeks, so stay tuned.

Now, writer/critiquers: if you’re still thirsty, go get a glass of water. And see how much farther Kat has to go to achieve her Crit for Water goal by June here. I think I'm going to have a garage sale in order to raise money for my critique from her.

For published authors or agents/editors who'd like to join in Kat's campaign by donating a critique, you can find details here. Tell her I sent you, and consider doing a Not and Editor interview here. Even if you are an editor. I'd be honored.


Anita said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anita said...

Hey there Mary! Sorry, I messed up my earlier comment.Heh. Great post. That Kat is one very interesting and generous gal. I'll check out that link. I'd heard about this awesome cause, but haven't been by to look at it yet. I'll try to remember to RT this post on Monday when I'm back in the twittersphere too.

BTW, what are filter words? I've never even heard that phrase, and I'm all excited now because I LOVE to learn new stuff about writing!

rosehips said...

I so agree about the grammar!

Marybk said...

Anita - Good for you for detwittering this weekend. The term *filter words* might mean different things to different people (like techy pros), but look here for a quick definition.

Sophia - You teachers are all about the grammar! <3

Anita said...

Awesome! Thanks for the link, Mary! I learned something new today. I knew about this rule, but didn't know they were called filter words. Very cool.

Krisz said...

Thanks for bringing not only awesome stuff about writing, but great info about wonderful projects. I will visit her blog.

Marybk said...

Anita: You're welcome. I was the same way. In fact, I just did a crit for someone last week with a long-winded explanation as to why I thought she should omit her filter words, and then Kat's mention of them prompted a google search.

Krisz: Thanks, Krisz! There are some great critique donations out there in the coming days. I think agent Marisa Corvisiero is out there today with a query crit drawing.

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